Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From the other side: Clemson

Greg Wallace of the Anderson Independent-Mail was kind enough to share his time answering a few questions about Clemson. You can follow him on twitter @aimclemson.

1. What's the overall sentiment among this year's team/coaching staff from the fans?

After Clemson finished last season 6-7, its first losing record since 1998, fans were ready to send Dabo Swinney packing. But he overhauled his offensive coaching staff, firing Billy Napier and his identity-challenged offense and hiring Chad Morris, who brought a hurry-up, no-huddle style. That, combined with signing the nation’s No.8 recruiting class, dramatically changed perception among the fanbase. I think they’re cautiously optimistic right now. Clemson lost five games by a touchdown or less a year ago, and reversing just two or three of those games would’ve made a dramatic difference.

Swinney and Morris feel like the firepower and explosiveness this offense brings will change the Tigers’ luck; if they’re right, Clemson will be among the ACC’s sleeper teams.


2. What are you expecting to see out of this offense with new coordinator Chad Morris?

Some hear “hurry-up, no-huddle” and think finesse, but Morris’ offense is physical. Talking with him this week, he used the word “physical” six times in 10 seconds, which gives you an idea of offensive emphasis. Morris likes to stretch the field and take chances downfield, but his system is rooted in a power running game. With Clemson bringing four offensive line starters and a healthy Andre Ellington back, that’s a good place to start. DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Charone Peake will stretch the field vertically, too.

3. What do you know about Tajh Boyd? Strengths and weaknesses?

Boyd struggled at times last season relieving Kyle Parker, but now that the starting job is his, he seems like a different guy. He made a renewed commitment to film study and workouts over the summer after a shaky spring game (completing only 8 of 24 passes) and it has showed this month. His footwork and ball security are two major areas of concern, but he worked hard at improving both over the summer. He’s an athletic quarterback who has strong running ability, and also has an excellent arm, with the ability to throw on the move. Morris and Clemson need him to be a force in the ground game as well, and I think he has the ability to do so.


4. Where are some areas Troy could take advantage of Clemson?

I think depth on the offensive and defensive lines are a concern. Fifth-year senior Phillip Price will be starting his first career game at left tackle, and if I was Troy, I’d line Jonathan Massaquoi across from him and test Price early. Clemson is uncertain about its offensive line reserves and will be playing two true freshmen as backup defensive tackles. The Tigers are solid across the board, but those are two areas of weakness.

5. For visitors to the Clemson area, where are the best places to eat?

A must-visit is the Esso Club, considered by many as one of the best college sports bars in America. They have a great menu of burgers, wings and sandwiches, and if you come on Friday, they have an excellent meat-and-three special. Plus, it's right down the hill from Memorial Stadium, making it a good pregame/postgame spot. Pixie and Bill’s has excellent steak and prime rib, and Calhoun Corners is also a pretty darn good fine dining establishment if you’re looking to spend a little extra and get a great Southern cooking experience.

6. How do you see the game going?

I think Troy is better than some of the Sun Belt teams Clemson has invited in recently (North Texas, Middle Tennessee, Louisiana-Monroe). Swinney called Massaquoi “as a good a pass rusher as we’ll see all year,” and they clearly have respect for Corey Robinson. That said, I think the Tigers will be ready for Troy’s quick-paced passing attack, and I think they have more overall speed and athleticism. Playing the Trojans in the first game is a challenge, considering that Clemson will be breaking in a number of impact freshmen on both sides of the ball. I think Troy will keep it close early and Clemson will pull away for a 38-17 win.


Wednesday links

Had a nice chat with Troy quarterback Corey Robinson. He had always said that one of the main reasons he plays football is because people always told him he was too small to do it at the highest level.

Got to ask him more about that. The result is THIS STORY, where he talks about how it was D1 or bust when it came to playing football. So far, it's worked out well.

Clemson had its press conference Tuesday. Want to know what head coach Dabo Swinney said about Troy and the upcoming game? Go HERE.

HERE is a story on Troy's spread testing Clemson's defense.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Riverdale, Ga., lineman commits to Troy

Troy has landed a commitment from Riverdale, Ga. (Charles Drew High School) offensive tackle Antonio Garcia, coach Jarrett Laws confirmed Tuesday night.

Garcia is 6-foot-7 and 253 pounds. He plays right tackle for his high school, which runs the same type of offense as Troy, because the quarterback is left-handed and Garcia can protect the blind side.

"He's a fabulous kid and our top offensive lineman," Laws said. "He's worked real hard. He's academically eligible and he's got a great attitude. I'm just real happy that Troy took a chance on him and that he'll get a chance to play at the next level. He's the total package."

Charles Drew is only in its third year of existence, and Laws was able to get Garcia off the basketball court and onto the football field. Laws raved about Garcia's endurance and footwork and said he'd be a good fit at Troy.

One of the main reasons Garcia doesn't have a rivals.com profile (at the moment) is because of the school being new. More kids are starting to get exposure, though. Garcia came to Troy's camp and shined, earning his offer.

Riverdale is near Atlanta. Garcia was recruited to Troy by defensive tackles coach Mo Crain.

**** (Star count is the highest rated I could find the commitment listed on all of the recruiting sites - rivals, scout, ESPN, 247sports.com)

HIGH SCHOOL
Cody Core (WR, Auburn, Ala.)
Antonio Garcia (OL, Riverdale, Ga.)
***Shaquille Beverly (DB, Jacksonville, Fla.)
JaQuadrian Lewis (DB, Fitzgerald, Ga.)

Tuesday links/chatter

Man, I'm gonna say, Monday ended up being a much longer day than I wanted it to be.

I wanted to write 2 stories. But we only had 3 pages of space, plus other content. Hopefully the people who decide the page count will realize that Monday's a big content day and open it up a little.

But you still get THIS NOTEBOOK from me. It leads with former Northview star B.J. Chitty getting ready to start for Troy, has some stuff about a recent players-only team meeting (I'm sure it was effective but I think players-only team meetings are blown out of proportion when talked about; maybe I'll change my stance if Troy beats Clemson), also James Brown in the jumbo package.

Look for more stuff later in the week. Quotes are transcribed, and that's always the longest part of Monday.

But I was headed home and got the call about THIS SITUATION at Rehobeth. Since our prep guy is off on Monday, I went over there. Thankfully was able to talk to the coach and principal, but unfortunately didn't get any parents and players who walked out, as they were long gone by 3:30 p.m.

Hopefully they can get it straightened out and they probably will later today. I like coach Neal Rumble. The program is 8-33 over the last 5 years, and something's got to get figured out. The one thing someone told me about Rehobeth (a Class 5A school) once is that there's a lot of great kids, they're all just 5-11, 150 pounds.

Football, unfortunately, just isn't played at a state-championship level down in the Wiregrass, especially at the bigger schools (except Eufaula). Don't mess with us in softball, though.

Last, and most important, was my league's fantasy football draft. Jerrel Jernigan still sits on the waiver wire.

From over in Clemson, HERE is a story on Tigers star running back Andre Ellington, who is coming off a serious injury.

HERE is a story on Clemson backup Cole Stoudt, who Troy coaches think may play a little bit. Sounds like if both starters have to come out, the teams will rely on true freshmen as I'm not sure Jamie Hampton will be ready.

HERE is a story about Clemson's new offense.

That's a pretty big deal for Clemson fans, the unveiling of this new offense. Remember back in 2006 when Tony Franklin brought his new offense? Boy, Troy stunk it up in a couple of those games that first year, but it's taken off ever since. Troy got to open up with Alabama State. Clemson doesn't get that cupcake luxury, but no doubt the Trojans are hoping plenty of kinks aren't ironed out yet since the Tigers have a lot of talent, and the defense is already good.

Of note, I'll be on the radio this morning with Barry and John on SportsRadio 740 AM out of Montgomery, and you can listen online HERE at 9:30 a.m. CST.

Baseball news - Just saw this, but the Troy baseball team released its 2012 schedule. The Trojans have a couple of tough non-conference road series at Southern Miss and Bethune-Cookman, and couldn't get any good teams to come for a home series as evidenced by Central Michigan and Monmouth coming down. They did get Alabama back on the home schedule for a March 20 game.

Troy won't have weekend starter Ryan Sorce in 2012, as the lefty tweeted that he had to have Tommy John surgery. Tough break for the kid, who was Troy's best pitcher in the fall and spring practices last year. Also, not seeing Drew Hull on the 2012 roster so that means he either didn't get his appeal for a 5th year (had TJ surgery midway through last year) or decided to move on.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Some Monday Troy notes

I'm just now getting to this and will be a little short with it because I've been tied up with a high school football issue to cover.

***Trojans had a players-only team meeting Sunday before practice. Only 10 minutes long, but good came from it. A little more in tomorrow's notes. Jonathan Massaquoi was the ringleader. Trojans had chemistry issues last year until late and started off 2009 with a bad loss at Bowling Green. Better to get this stuff ironed out early.

***Interesting stuff from Corey Robinson. He said had he not gotten offered by a Division I (like Troy), he'd probably have just not gone to school. He was told he was too small by most colleges and he didn't want to play at a small school. More later this week.

***Jonathan Massaquoi is up to 270 pounds.

***I'd be shocked if WR Brett Moncrief plays Saturday because of the foot, but he'll be ready for Arkansas. WR Eric Thomas (wrist) and Massaquoi (foot) missed some practice time, but were back last night and will play.

***Defensive end Alan-Michael Thomas left school to take care of a family health issue, and is expected to rejoin the team in January. Same with cornerback David Whitmore.

***The depth chart I saw had no big changes that I can recall.

***A travel and non-travel roster was listed in the game notes. Some notable names on the NON-travel roster include Moncrief (but my bet is that he travels), DB Dionte Ponder (redshirted last year), QB Dallas Tidwell, WR Bryan Holmes, RB Daron White, RB Montrell Conner, LB Tyler Roberts, LB Terron Bell, OL Cody Jenkins, OL Demarkus Underwood. Most of those guys are true freshmen slated to redshirt.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Auburn High receiver commits to Troy

Troy football landed a commitment Sunday night when Auburn High School receiver Cody Core committed to the Trojans.

“I just felt like I fit in good at Troy,” Core said. “I always wanted to be a Trojan. They were my first offer.”

Core said he’s 6-foot-3 and now 190 pounds and projects as an outside receiver at the next level. He ran a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash at Troy’s camp on July 22 and earned an offer there. He also said he was offered by Southern Miss and UAB.

“I’m solid (with Troy),” Core said. “I’m glad to get this done so I can focus on the season.”

Core was recruited to Troy by quarterbacks coach Sean Reagan.

HERE is Core's rivals.com page. HERE is his scout.com page.

And here is what looks to be his highlight tape



And, now Troy's up-to-date, as best as I know it, commitment list

**** (Star count is the highest rated I could find the commitment listed on all of the recruiting sites - rivals, scout, ESPN, 247sports.com)

HIGH SCHOOL
Cody Core (WR, Auburn, Ala.)
***Shaquille Beverly (DB, Jacksonville, Fla.)
JaQuadrian Lewis (DB, Fitzgerald, Ga.)

Sunday night notes

Head coach Larry Blakeney won't be at Troy's media press conference Monday. His aunt recently died, and her funeral is tomorrow. He hopes to be back in time for practice Monday night at 6. He did just give me a ring, so I figured I'd share it on the blog since the pro-Clemson story for tomorrow's paper is already filed.

On playing Clemson to open: "I wish it was Alcorn State and it was here. It's not. It's Clemson and it's there. We're going to go up there and try to do all we can do. We need to be able to run it and stop the run, and get some help from our defense and special teams."

On Clemson's new offense, as coordinator Chad Morris came over from Tulsa: "It's probably like us. Maybe it's a little bit like Auburn. They have a power run game and they can spread out and throw it. They'll look very similar to us, Auburn and Tulsa, which is where he came from. We'll have to match up and try to figure out what they're trying to do and do our best to stop it."

Blakeney said the Clemson spring game was on TV, and they studied that and some Tulsa and Auburn stuff. Auburn runs the no-huddle, spread attack as well.

Injury notes: Blakeney said he didn't think anybody of critical importance would miss the game, except possibly wide receiver Brett Moncrief, who really hasn't done much of anything in practice yet as he's recovered from a broken foot. He's back practicing now, though.

"He's working. We need him, but we don't know if we need to rush it right now. I'd say probably not (as far as playing)."

Moncrief, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior, is Troy's leading returning receiver and will be the starter at Z-WR when he comes back.

(Drew's take: If you drafted Moncrief in your fantasy Sun Belt football leagues, may want to hold off on starting him until Sept. 17)

I did ask about two other guys specifically - backup quarterback Jamie Hampton (leg) and starting defensive tackle Emanuel Dudley (foot surgery)

Hampton: "Jamie's preparing to go as the backup. He's in pretty good shape. I hope he'll be able to play if we need him."

(Drew's take: I don't anticipate Jamie having the same role as he did last year when he'd play 10 snaps a game as a change of pace quarterback. That probably has equal to do with his health and Troy's game plan. If Corey Robinson were to get hurt, I'm thinking he would be the next guy, though. But I'm not really confident in saying that because I'm not sure how healthy he is in his return from a broken leg).

Dudley: "Emanuel's been doing a lot better and practicing a lot better. We're going to need him"

(Drew's take: He'll be playing).

Some guys have been sitting out some practices to rest. Defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi was battling a foot problem, but Blakeney anticipates him being good to go.

On Clemson's defense: "I know they're pretty good. They've got guys who can play up front. They've got size and speed and they're aggressive. I've known (defensive coordinator) Kevin Steele for a long time and he's a good coach."

Blakeney was also complimentary of Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.

Blakeney on Troy's defense:
"(Brynden) Trawick's going to help us. We need a few more of those guys like Dudley who are experienced to step up. Massaquoi, John Robles, (Brandon) Boudreaux and Xavian (Evans) have all had their moments (at defensive end). We've got depth at linebacker and guys who have played snaps and some guys that have played in the secondary. (Defensive tackle Shermane) Teart is ready. He's got his body in shape and he's gone about things the right way."

***Check back tomorrow afternoon
and I'll update on what the coordinators and players had to say.

Sunday links

We're one day away from Troy's first weekly press conference, which are held Mondays around lunchtime.

That's when we get to talk to coaches, players, see new depth charts, find about injuries we didn't know about, do interviews for weekly stories, etc.

In the meantime, I did write a story on the linebacker duo of Brannon Bryan and Xavier Lamb. I am pleased with how it turned out. You can read it HERE.

Expect stories almost every day from here until the end of the regular season, except during the bye week. Expect more blog updates as well. Please feel free to leave questions/comments on the blog.

Over in Clemson, wide receiver Joe Craig was suspended for three games.

Clemson has a young team, with several talented freshmen looking to play. THIS NOTEBOOK is an example of that.

HERE is a story on Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney learning to be the boss.

And HERE is a story from OrangeandWhite.com on Swinney referencing how Troy won't be intimidated.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday links

Troy wide receiver Jaquon Robinson sat out 2009 as a transfer from Air Force, and couldn't crack the rotation at all last year. Rather than pout, he busted his tail and got better, earned a scholarship and is now a starter.

Story in today's paper HERE.

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On another note, if you're a fan of Wiregrass high school football, follow @eaglesports for your twitter updates or share scores with us of games we're not able to get to. The regular season begins tonight, and I'll be at Slocomb as the Red Tops take on Cottonwood.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Some roster news and Wednesday links

Sent in an e-mail to Troy's sports information office to ask about a few players.

First, a congrats to a few guys, as wide receiver Jaquon Robinson, defensive tackle Kyle Lucas, tight end Jim Teknipp, offensive lineman Kendall Gibson and special teams stud Brandon Kent were awarded scholarships.

Robinson is the starter at the Y-WR position, and I've got a story on him running in tomorrow's paper. Teknipp has emerged as the top tight end (when tight ends are used) and Lucas has found himself a place in the 2-deep at one of the defensive tackle spots. Kent is a hard-hitting, but undersized wide receiver (moved from defensive back this year) from Rehobeth who has done well on kick coverage.

Kent came up big in last year's win over Arkansas State, and you can read THIS STORY on him that I did last year.

Gibson has long been praised by coach John Schlarman for his effort and may have a chance to be the long snapper next season.

***A few guys aren't eligible or with the team. These aren't guys who were expected to be major contributors, and some are walk-ons. Cornerback D.J. Jones, as I mentioned in a notebook a while back, was a credit short of eligibility after transferring from JUCO and will sit out this year. Cornerback David Whitmore came to Troy injured, won't enroll this fall and will rehab the injury, and is slated to come back in January. A pair of walk-ons, quarterback Hunter Armstrong and defensive end Alan-Michael Thomas, a transfer from Ole Miss, aren't with the team any more. Not sure why, but again, neither would have played this year.

Troy still has five scholarship cornerbacks, though Jones could have played a little.

----------------------------------------

Think Troy's got a shot at the upset of Clemson? DixieFriedSports.com thinks so, listing some Week 1 upset alerts and mentioning Troy's game at Clemson.

A short notebook I wrote in today's paper mostly about the stuff I blogged about on Monday.

HERE is a good story from Greg Wallace in Anderson, S.C., on how Clemson answered some of its questions by the end of fall camp.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday links

I wrote THIS STORY on Troy senior defensive tackle Emanuel Dudley.

From over in Clemson, new OC Chad Morris is pleased with the progress of the no-huddle, spread offense.

Also, not much depth on the offensive line. And six keys to a winning season for the Tigers.

I'll be on my normal Tuesday segment with John and Barry. You can listen at 740 AM in Montgomery on your dial, or online HERE.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday notes

We'll stay on the offensive side of the ball with this, thanks to a chat with offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield.

***Troy begins Clemson preparations today. The 1s will still face the 1s to stay sharp, but it's mostly work against the scout team, which is emulating Clemson's style. The hope is that the offense will be able to sharpen its tempo, which isn't where Edenfield wants it to be right now.

***INJURIES: Wide receiver Brett Moncrief is supposed to start doing more stuff this week. The hope is that backup quarterback Jamie Hampton will get fully cleared soon. Their status for the Sept. 3 game against Clemson is still up in the air. I get the feeling they'll be ready, but I'd hold off on expecting great things on either for that game. Remember, the Trojans have a bye until the 2nd game.

Left guard Kyle Wilborn has had some shoulder (non-operated one) issues of late. Wide receiver Bryan Holmes has dealt with back pain.

***If Moncrief can't play against Clemson, then the top 3 guys are B.J. Chitty, Felton Payton (with those 2 getting the majority of the reps) and Hakeem Haynie. If Moncrief can play, he'll most likely move past Chitty and be the starter.

***Luke Barnes is a little bit ahead as the No. 3 quarterback, and K.D. Edenfield will be the fourth quarterback to travel. Dallas Tidwell has done very well this camp, but is slated to redshirt to get some separation. How much Barnes and Edenfield play, if at all, depends on the health of the two quarterbacks in front of them.

***Brian Exley has been tabbed as the No. 4 running back on the depth chart. He has won that with his performance in fall camp. I'd hold off on thinking he'll get 10-15 carries per game, as the top 3 (Shawn Southward, Chris Anderson and D.J. Taylor) are significantly ahead of him, but you never know. The thing is, he'll be ready.

***Of the true freshman skill guys, wide receiver Chandler Worthy will play early and often. He was a bit unheralded in the recruiting process, but could be the best guy in the class. Wide receiver Bryan Holmes' back issues likely have him staring at a redshirt. Running back Daron White is another good player and has had a great camp, but he'll redshirt because there's a lot of talented depth at this position.

***The right tackle battle is still ongoing between redshirt freshman Terrence Jones and redshirt junior Jarred Fleming. If Fleming doesn't win that, he'll be the 6th guy to go in at likely any position (except center, I think).

***Some great stuff on Y-receiver starter Jaquon Robinson, and you'll see this quote in a story later in the week on Robinson: "He was right there on the bubble last year as far as being in the mix to travel. He had a couple of bad scrimmages where he was very inconsistent catching the ball, and his blocking was not as good as it should have been. He did not pout. He did not complain. He went to the scout team every day and busted his tail. Through that, he got better.

"When the other side of the ball is mentioning a kid's name, you can tell he's working hard. He came out this spring and held everybody off."

Robinson will start and rotate with Sam Haskins and Hollis Moore and even tight end Gavin Ellis, who has worked in some split-out formations at Y.

All game times set

Of course, the last four games could change if the Sun Belt Network wants to televise them.

Home games are bolded, away games are not

9/3 Clemson - 2:30 (ESPN3.com)
9/17 Arkansas - 6:30 (CSS)
9/24 Middle Tennessee - 3:30 (Sun Belt Network)
10/1 UAB - 6:00
10/8 Louisiana-Lafayette - 6:00
10/15 ULM - 6:00 (Sun Belt Network)
10/25 FIU - 7:00 (ESPN2)
11/5 Navy - 2:30 (CBS College Sports)
11/12 North Texas - 2:30
11/19 FAU - 2:30
11/26 WKU - Noon
12/3 ASU - 2:00

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Trojans in the NFL Update

We're almost through with week 2 of 4 during the preseason. It's time to see where some former Trojans are in the NFL.

Before you read the list, it's important to note a few cut-down days in the NFL. On Aug. 30, rosters are cut down to 75. On Sept. 3, rosters are cut down to the regular-season size of 53. Two days later, teams can sign up to 10 practice squad players.

UDFA - Undrafted Free Agent

***Mario Addison (DE) signed with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent. He has turned some heads early on. As an UDFA, though, we'll have to see if he makes the squad.

***Levi Brown (QB) is with the Buffalo Bills. He's not getting much love from the Bills' coaching staff, unfortunately. Buffalo has a top 2 in starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyler Thigpen, and could list athlete Brad Smith as a QB on gamedays (teams can only dress 3 QBs). He struggled in the first preseason game, and didn't play in the second (if he did, he didn't throw any), so he may be a practice squad player this year. Hopefully he gets more snaps in the final two games.

***Jorrick Calvin (CB/KR/PR) is in his second year with the Philadephia Eagles and competing for a spot. He was drafted by Arizona last year and traded to Philly.

***Dion Gales (DE/DT) is entering his third year with the Kansas City Chiefs. He signed as an UDFA in 2009 and has stayed on the roster. Not sure how secure his spot is for this year, but the Chiefs seem to like him.

***DuJuan Harris (RB) signed as an UDFA with Jacksonville, and is looking good. I was watching the preseason game Saturday when all-pro Maurice Jones-Drew mentioned him in a sideline interview as one of the new guys who was doing well. It's always an uphill battle for UDFAs to make the team, but he does a lot of things well.

***Jerrel Jernigan (WR/KR/PR) is primed to do big things as a rookie 3rd round draft pick by the New York Giants this year. He's changed his twitter name to @JJernigan12 and will be playing on ESPN against Addison and the Chicago Bears on Monday night.

***Elbert Mack (CB) is in his fourth year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after making the team as an UDFA in 2008. He's been a bright spot during camp as he's battling former FIU corner Anthony Gaitor for a roster spot. He's always going to be labeled undersized, but he keeps making plays. Like THIS ONE, a pick-6 against the Patriots' Ryan Mallett (go to the 2:23 mark in the video).

***Sherrod Martin (S) is in his third year with the Carolina Panthers after being drafted in the 2nd round in 2009. He's poised to be a starting safety.

***Leodis McKelvin (DB/KR/PR) is in his fourth year with the Buffalo Bills after being picked 11th overall. THIS REPORT says McKelvin has been the team's best cover corner in preseason camp. He didn't fare well against Denver the other night, but the Bills couldn't get a good pass rush, either.

***Steve McLendon (DL) inked with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an UDFA in 2009. Right now, according to this report, he's in a battle for the backup nose guard job.

***Cameron Sheffield (OLB) was a 6th round draft pick by the Kansas City Chiefs last year, but missed the season with a neck injury. He's back, and looking good so far.

***Lawrence Tynes (K) kicked the New York Giants into the 2009 Super Bowl. He's still the Giants' kicker, and narrowly missed a serious knee injury in the first preseason game.

***Osi Umenyiora (DL) is still with the New York Giants, but injured at the moment and out for a few weeks after knee surgery.

***DeMarcus Ware (OLB) is still doing his thing with the Dallas Cowboys as one of the NFL's top players.

***Bear Woods (OLB) still has the hair and is still making plays for the Atlanta Falcons. He signed as an UDFA with the Falcons and did well in training camp, but was cut before the season. He spent some time on the practice squad and is trying to make the final roster. You can read a little more HERE.


***You may be wondering about Gary Banks (WR), Brandon Lang (DE) and Boris Lee (LB), but it looks like Banks was cut after last season and Lang and Lee were cut not long after training camp started this year.




Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday's scrimmage is over

Since I wasn't there, here is all I can tell you. Go to this link HERE on TroyTrojans.com

I'm actually in Midland, Texas, visiting my parents, who moved out here from Tuscaloosa so my dad could keep a job in the Chevron company (he's a land agent or something like that).

They live near the high school stadium shared by Midland High School and Midland-Lee High School. This is about what your average stadium looks like for most bigger schools in Texas. They love their high school football here. Midland neighbors Odessa, which is where the book and movie Friday Night Lights took place. The kicker is that they moved from Tuscaloosa the day before the deadly tornadoes hit back in April.

I don't think the pictures really do it justice, but this looks better in person than most, if not all, of the high school stadiums in Alabama, and probably some college stadiums as well.




Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday links

What's Troy's best position among the two-deep that you're not talking about? It might just be WLB, with experienced players Brannon Bryan and Jacoby Thomas battling for snaps. Bryan is the starter, with Thomas, who has played a good bit as well, on his heels and steadily improving. Both made some big plays over the course of last season.

I wrote a story on Thomas today, and you can read it HERE.

Troy has its second scrimmage Saturday morning. I will not be able to be there for that, so check over to troytrojans.com for more information.

On another note, Troy got its championship rings from last year. Here it is.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Media Day - Special Teams

From coach Shayne Wasden at last Saturday's Media Day

Not much to explain here, as starting kicker/kickoff guy Michael Taylor, punter Will Goggans are back as seniors.

Senior Wes Henry has done a good job and is going into his third year as the starting long snapper.

"If you've never heard his name, that's the best compliment you can pay to a long snapper," Wasden said. "He does a great job for us."

The return game is where you'll see a bunch of new guys, since Jerrel Jernigan is in the NFL.

The leading punt returner looks to be Justin Albert, while Corey Johnson will be one of the kick returners.

Wasden mentioned Shawn Southward, Chris Anderson, Chris Pickett and Brynden Trawick as other guys who will factor into kickoff returns.

Also, freshman Chandler Worthy is really fast and will get into the mix eventually.

The holder will be Jaquon Robinson.

Media Day - DTs

This info comes from defensive tackles coach Mo Crain at last Saturday's Media Day.

***Junior Tony Davis is healthy after playing last year with an elbow injury. He's bigger now and expected to be a leader and be a big-time player this year.

***The other starter is projected to be senior Emanuel Dudley, though he's struggling to return from ankle surgery. If he's healthy, he'll be the top guy next to Davis.

***If Dudley isn't able to go, look for sophomore Shermane Teart to get the call. Teart has made a big jump from last year and should play a major role.

***Sophomores Aaron Williams and John Clark will be expected to step up their games this year. Williams was hurt pretty much all of last year, and Clark has been slowed during camp by an Achilles injury.

***Senior Kyle Lucas is in the mix for some big snaps. He was (might still be) a walk-on.

***Some of the bigger names people know about are JUCO transfer Tony Gillespie and senior Jeremy Elder, who was ineligible last year. Both are further back the depth chart, but there's eight in the rotation and you can never have too many defensive linemen.

In my opinion, this is a group with some question marks. Lots of unproven guys need to step up for Troy's defense to be good. There is potential, just not much experience.

***

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Media Day - DEs

This is from defensive ends coach Randy Butler at Media Day on Saturday.

***Everybody knows about junior Jonathan Massaquoi, one of the top defensive ends in the country and the preseason Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. This year, he's expecting double teams and plenty more attention.

***The other starter will be senior John Robles and he'll have to help take the pressure off Massaquoi.

"He got bigger and stronger and at the end of the year, he was playing a bit more," Butler said. "He's probably the smartest guy I've got. Football-wise, he knows the defense inside and out. He's just got to be more consistent."

***The top backups are senior Brandon Boudreaux and junior college transfer Xavian Evans. Evans is a big guy and they're excited about him and he'll be playing a lot once he figures out the defense more.

***Butler is excited about three true freshmen on the roster, though they're probably destined to redshirt. However, D.J. Johnson could eat his way into a defensive tackle (that's not a bad thing, as this kid carries his weight well).

Deon Lee is about 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. "He's got a really good first step," Butler said. "He's real light right now. In another year, you'll really start to hear about him."

Jawan James is a walk-on that turned down some other scholarship opportunities to come to Troy.

Media Day - LBs

Before you read this, check out THIS NOTEBOOK. It does have some news, especially with a cornerback being ineligible, but Troy has 6 other corners that are on scholarship.

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This info comes from linebackers coach Benjy Parker at Media Day on Saturday, and some of it from talking to him yesterday.

Junior Brannon Bryan is the starter at WLB, and he's being pushed by junior Jacoby Thomas, who Parker says has had an unbelievable camp. Got to figure they'll both play a good bit because both are good, experienced players.

At Nickel, Kanorris Davis is the starter. Right now, he's battling a groin issue, but is back practicing. Angelo Hadley has moved from safety and is behind him. Johnny Thompson would have been pushing Davis for the starting job, but had to give up football because of a neck problem. Behind those two is true freshman Terron Bell, who could help the Trojans somewhere this year.

At MLB, the starter is senior Xavier Lamb. Parker said right now, they're hunting a backup MLB, with the candidates being redshirt freshman Brach Bessant, true freshman Tyler Roberts and a pair of walk-ons, Sam Pounds and Ty Burt.

That's a big role, with Lamb being a senior. Whoever wins that job could be the frontrunner to start in 2012.

Thomas has also played MLB, but Parker said he's likely to stay at WLB.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday link

Wrote THIS STORY on Jamie Hampton, now the fifth-year senior backup quarterback who has bounced back from 2 serious injuries to finish out his career.

He looks like a fullback/linebacker now and is really throwing it well.

Troy's last early morning practice is today, and I should be there toward the end of it. After today, the Trojans start school on Wednesday and move to late afternoon practices.

I'm supposed to be on with John and Barry at 9:30 a.m. on 740AM in Montgomery. Looks like it'll be on location from Veterans Stadium (via my phone). Listen online HERE.

Monday, August 15, 2011

11th rounder Bennett says he's passing on pros

Outfielder Jo-El Bennett from Houston Academy, who was drafted in the 11th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates, is likely to pass up professional baseball for 3 years to attend Troy.

the draft deadline is tonight at midnight.

"So far, so good," Troy head coach Bobby Pierce said. "I know he's unloaded, in town and all of that."

Troy returns a bunch of outfielders next year, but Bennett's talents could slide him into the lineup from day one.

"He's a premier hitter coming out of high school," Pierce said. "You don't normally have the opportunity to see guys like him do what he can do at his age.

"At the same time, he'll have to work hard to get adjusted to Division I baseball. Only time will tell. We think he has a chance to get in early because of his dedication."

Bennett, who is around 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, could get a look at all three outfield positions.

"We'll probably work him at all three," Pierce said. "We want to play on his strengths and work on his weaknesses. He could very well be a great college center fielder, but the pros probably think of him as a corner outfielder."

9 p.m. EDIT - Quote from Bennett on going to Troy.

"I felt the best move for me personally was to go to school," Bennett said. "My gut feeling told me it was better to go to Troy."

In other Wiregrass news, the Pirates signed Slocomb right-handed pitcher Clay Holmes for a $1.2 million bonus. Holmes was picked in the ninth round.

Media Day - DBs

Continuing the quick series from Saturday's media day, here's some stuff from defensive coordinator/secondary coach Jeremy Rowell.


***Rowell mentioned how the group has more depth, but most of that depth is guys who haven't played much, and have to be ready to show up when the season starts.

***At cornerback, the starters are senior Jimmie Anderson and sophomore Chris Pickett.

Junior Bryan Willis has been injured and they're needing him to get healthy because of his experience. The top backup on the other side is freshman Ethan Davis, who sat out last year as a non-qualifier and finally joined the team in August. He has progressed really well, Rowell said.

The next guy Rowell mentioned is junior college transfer David Whitmore, who just arrived in August. Rowell mentioned how he's got to learn the defense better and as he does, the better chance he gets to playing.

He didn't mention D.J. Jones or Dionte Ponder, but those are 2 more scholarship guys in the mix.

***At safety, looks like the starters will be senior Barry Valcin and junior college transfer Brynden Trawick. I contend that Trawick will have a big impact and if he plays well on the field, he'll be an NFL Draft pick. Senior LaDarrius Madden and sophomore Cam Hudson are behind them.

"I feel pretty good with any of those four in the ball game," Rowell said.

True freshman Joe Lofton, who enrolled in January as a grayshirt, has shown some good things at safety.

Media Day - OLs

Continuing our series in what the assistant coaches had to say at the Troy Media Day. Today, we'll recap what offensive line coach John Schlarman had to say.

***The two mainstays have been left tackle James Brown and left guard Kyle Wilborn. Junior Jacob Creech has emerged as the right guard.

***At center, it'll be senior Zach Swindall, a former walk-on.

"He's battled to earn the opportunity where he is today," Schlarman said. "His technique and effort has to be perfect on every snap. He's had a good fall camp and we need him to step up and be a great player. He's no longer a back-up."

***The right tackle spot is between redshirt freshman Terrence Jones and junior Jarred Fleming. The heat got to Jones early in fall camp, allowing Fleming to make a move. Fleming will be the team's 6th lineman, so if somebody goes down, he'll slide in somewhere.

***I blogged about this Saturday, but the 7th lineman is true freshman Zach Johnson, a 3-star recruit who graduated early and enrolled in the spring. He could play anywhere on the inside.

***Schlarman said they travel 10, and are looking for the next 3 guys to round out the rotation. The next three guys he mentioned were junior Cody Woodiel, who was a tight end but moved to tackle when he got to Troy this spring. Andrew Phillips, a JUCO transfer, is working with the 2s at center, and freshman Dalton Bennett moved to tackle from guard and the hopes are high for him in the future.


***Behind those guys are some that could work their way into the 10. DeMarkus Underwood, a junior who redshirted after coming from JUCO last year, is in the mix, but hasn't practiced yet after arthroscopic knee surgery. Jimmie Arnold and Cody Jenkins are redshirt sophomores who are in the mix. Schlarman also mentioned a couple of walk-ons who "fight tooth and nail to make our team better" in Kendall Gibson and Evan McKissack.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Media Day - WRs

Here is some of what receivers coaches Kenny Edenfield (inside) and Shayne Wasden had to say about their group Saturday during Media Day.

INSIDE RECEIVERS
***At the H, obviously Jerrel Jernigan is gone. The trio of Corey Johnson, Justin Albert and Khary Franklin have gotten the work there, and it looks like Johnson will be the starter with Albert getting more of the reps that Johnson doesn't get. They cross-trained Chris Anderson there in the spring and can move him there if need be. Johnson can play other WR positions if need be.

***At the Y, the starter right now is walk-on Jaquon Robinson, who transferred from Air Force (and might be on scholarship now, I am not sure). He hasn't played yet. Behind him is true freshman Chandler Worthy, and he is really a guy to watch over the course of the year. He's fast and has a chance to be a good one. The third guy is Sam Haskins, but he's been limited by injury.

***Troy has tight ends in Gavin Ellis and Jim Teknipp, who take the place of the Y when they are in, but TE has never been a big receiving spot.

OUTSIDE RECEIVERS

***Sophomore Eric Thomas is the starter at X. He played Y last year and should catch a lot of passes. Not a real speedy guy, but a guy that just knows how to play football and make plays. Sophomore Felton Payton and junior Hollis Moore are behind him and Edenfield mentioned Stanley Arukwe, who was on the track team, as a guy that was worthy of mentioning.

***At the Z, senior Brett Moncrief would be the guy, but he still hasn't practiced yet because of a foot injury and may not play against Clemson. That leaves redshirt freshman B.J. Chitty as the top guy. Behind them is true freshman Bryan Holmes, and Edenfield said he thinks Holmes will play some this year if he keeps progressing.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that Troy lost a lot of guys here, but if there's a position where this staff has hit several home runs on in recruiting, it's at receiver. These guys over the years have all developed well and the sooner they get past inconsistency issues that come with guys who haven't played much or at all, they'll be really good.

Plus, someone's got to catch the passes.

Media Day - RBs

Here's some of what running backs coach Jeff Beckles had to say about the Troy running backs at the media day on Saturday.

I will say that later on, coach Larry Blakeney alluded to the group being the best it's been since they switched to this offense in 2006.

***As you read last week, three are running with the first team in Shawn Southward, Chris Anderson and D.J. Taylor.

***With that being said, look for Southward to get more carries than the other two, or as Beckles said, a little bit more than he did last year. I've always thought he could be a 1,000-yard back if given the carries. Anderson and Taylor have turned into pretty good players, too.

***The overlooked guy is T.J. Mitchell, who is also a junior, but stuck behind the first three. Mitchell, running with the 2s, scored twice on 8 carries for 71 yards in the scrimmage.

"I feel confident something good would happen with him in the game," Beckles said. "He's one of the fastest guys on our team. If you put the ball in his hands, good things can happen."

Freshman Daron White and sophomore Montrell Conner are the newcomers to the group.

"We feel like they can help," Beckles said. "We're asking them to get healthy and get their bodies prepared to play Division I football and they've got to learn the offense.

"Conner got hurt early and hasn't been able to take as many snaps. He's ready mentally. I test him all the time. It's just a matter of him getting healthy. He has experience, he's been in the SEC for a year and played at a junior college. When he gets healthy, I see him getting in the mix."

Redshirt freshman Brian Exley ran well in the scrimmage.

"He's real tough and fast," Beckles said. "He's got deceptive speed. He doesn't look fast, but when you bring his speed with the load he brings, he lowers his pads and runs you over."

Beckles also mentioned walk-on Jarod Lee behind Taylor at the H-back as a guy who has done some good things in practice.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sunday links (8-14-11)

Wrote sort of a combined story on the scrimmage and the Trojans looking for more consistency this season and trying to get that chemistry earlier in the year.

You can read it HERE.

My quick thought on the scrimmage: In the first fall scrimmage, you want your defense to win most series, and Troy's defense did that. You want your offense to make a couple of big plays, and Troy's offense did just that. Troy's offensive big plays just came very early on, once when Eric Thomas got behind Chris Pickett and Brynden Trawick on a deep ball on the first play, and later when Justin Albert got past linebacker Brannon Bryan on a slant and turned it into a big gain.

Clemson had its first scrimmage of the fall. Sounds like quarterback Tajh Boyd has been really impressive this fall, though the Tigers had some mental errors.

Media Day - QBs

Each and every assistant coach spoke to the media for a couple of minutes about their position. I'll blog about what all they had to say, and try to get them all up in the next couple of days so the info won't be old. First up is quarterbacks coach Sean Reagan, and here's what he had to say.

***They wanted starter Corey Robinson to improve his leadership on and off the field, and he has done that. He's just a sophomore, but in his 4th year out of high school since he spent the fall of 2008 as a grayshirt.

***Senior Jamie Hampton still hasn't been cleared for full contact, though he's thrown in some drills and taken plenty of mental reps.

***There is a battle for the No. 3 spot between three freshmen - Luke Barnes, K.D. Edenfield and Dallas Tidwell. Barnes and Edenfield enrolled in January and went through spring, and Tidwell enrolled in the summer. All three took turns with the second team during the scrimmage.

"Dallas is ahead of where I thought he'd be," Reagan said, complimenting how quick Tidwell has picked up the offense.

"Luke is a little bit ahead of the other two. We'll get a better feel after we evaluate the scrimmage."

Troy linebacker Thompson has to give up football

Some of the big news out of Troy's Media Day was the fact that sophomore linebacker Johnny Thompson had to give up the sport after a neck injury.

It wasn't some paralysis thing, but just something that had built up and he could have risked severe injury had he continued playing. Thompson was behind Kanorris Davis at the nickel spot, but was playing really well and expected to be a big contributor.

"I can't say enough about him," linebackers coach Benjy Parker said. "It crushed him, just like it would crush anybody. Johnny's going to keep battling. He'll stay in school and get his degree."

Sophomore Angelo Hadley has moved from safety to nickel, where he's behind Davis but has played with the first team all week as Davis has battled a groin injury.

A couple of other notes

***At the Y-WR position, junior Jaquon Robinson, who didn't have a role last year, has emerged as the starter. He is also the team's holder.

***There's a battle at right tackle with freshman Terrence Jones and junior Jarred Fleming. The 7th lineman is true freshman Zach Johnson.

"He's strong as an ox," OL coach John Schlarman said of Johnson. "He benches 430-440 pounds, and that's phenomenal for an 18-year-old. He's also smart, works hard and is very tough. All that combines for a very good player. He played center in high school and he's playing guard for us, but could play anywhere on the inside. He's got a bright future and he's been a great addition for us."

***At the scrimmage, Troy hit 2 huge plays early in the 1s vs 1s, as Corey Robinson hit Eric Thomas for a 56-yard gain on the first play. Later, Robinson threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Corey Johnson.

The 2s marched right down behind the running of T.J. Mitchell and Brian Exley, and Mitchell scored on a 20-yard run.

The 1s then got a big play on a 47-yard slant pass to Justin Albert, and DJ Taylor scored on a 7-yard run out of the Wildcat formation.

The 1s didn't score any more touchdowns after that, as the defense got better. There were some more scores in red zone work as Chandler Worthy scored on a 20-yard run and K.D. Edenfield took the team 80 yards late in the scrimmage and hit Trey Page on a 21-yard touchdown pass with the backups in.

Robinson went 12-of-25 for 187 yards and a TD. Edenfield was 4-of-6 for 51 yards and a TD. Actually, Jaquon Robinson threw both interceptions, one on a botched field goal and one on a double pass into the end zone in red zone duty. Cam Hudson (10 tackles) had one pick and Barry Valcin had the ther.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Scrimmage live blog

We'll do this for the Saturday scrimmage, so stop by and chat

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Friday links

I wrote about the running backs. Three guys are ahead of the pack to get the carries - Shawn Southward, Chris Anderson and D.J. Taylor. What about the fourth guy? Not that the fourth guy gets many carries, but they want a fourth guy ready.

HERE is what I wrote.

Some other news regarding Troy's opponents.

**Had to figure it was going to happen, but FAU head coach Howard Schnellenberger announced his retirement effective at the end of the season.

Schnellenberger built the FAU program from the ground up, and I'm happy to see him get to coach a year in the new stadium.

**Bad news for Arkansas running back Knile Davis, who suffered a serious injury in practice.

Troy is at Arkansas Sept. 17. Arkansas surely has some more talented backs, but Davis is an elite running back and the best one Troy was going to see this year, by far.

Thursday links

Spent my Wednesday watching Little League World Series regionals on ESPN2 and then the U.S. National team playing Mexico. Still convinced soccer officials are either the most incompetent or corrupt of all officials, though the sport has been growing on me since the 2010 World Cup.

Meanwhile...

...Troy had a 2-a-day practice Wednesday, one I was not at thanks to a furlough day, but all went well, I suppose. The first scrimmage is Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and that will be the next time I see the Trojans in action.

I did get plenty of interviews Monday, and TODAY'S STORY focuses on offensive guards Kyle Wilborn and Jacob Creech and their return from surgeries.

Kind of a funny story, as the two are roommates and figured their house is cursed with all the injuries. These two need to stay healthy for Troy's offensive line, which will be filled with 4 of 5 starters as guys in their third, fourth or fifth years in Shaughnessy's weight program, to flourish.

I'll have some stuff on the running backs for Friday's paper.

For some good Clemson coverage, go HERE or HERE.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Story on James Brown

Had an interesting conversation with Troy left tackle James Brown, a leader on the offensive line and on the team.

He's slimmed down from in the 350s to about 310. He also told me about how football saved his life growing up.

You can read the story HERE.

VIDEO: Kenny Edenfield

Some video with offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield, shot yesterday and edited today.

Tuesday links

Got to write a notebook from today's practice, leading with news about wide receiver Brett Moncrief, who took a positive step in his recovery from a broken foot. You can read it HERE.

From over in Clemson, quarterback Tajh Boyd is off to a strong start this fall.

And, if you want to hear me talk Troy football on the radio with Barry and John at 9:30 a.m. CST, go HERE

Monday, August 8, 2011

VIDEO: Larry Blakeney

Video of head coach Larry Blakeney after practice Monday. Wind caught up later in the video, but I think you should still be able to hear him.

Monday practice notes




Made my trip over to Troy's practice, which began early this morning.

***Troy likely won't even get into full gear/tackling until Saturday's scrimmage. Got to keep people healthy. There are positives and negatives to it, just like there are positives and negatives to going full gear every day.

***Scouts from the 49ers, Texas and Rams were there.

***The big news may be WR Brett Moncrief getting his boot off today. However, he could still miss the Clemson game since there will be another week to recover before Arkansas. Still another two weeks or so from running routes, but he got his boot off ahead of schedule.

***The defensive tackles on the first unit were Tony Davis and Tony Gillespie. I'd say Emanuel Dudley is ahead of Gillespie, but Dudley is recovering from surgery and taking it slow. He'll be ready for game 1, but Gillespie has shot up the depth chart. He's nowhere near as big as the 315 pounds or so that he's listed on rivals.com, but he's not tiny. Neither is Davis. He's gotten bigger and really looks like a defensive tackle now.

***Kanorris Davis came out with either a pulled muscle or cramps and tight end Gavin Ellis was out with a mild concussion.

***Speaking of tight ends, the catch of the day from what I saw was Jim Teknipp hauling in a pass from about 25-30 yards out over safety Brynden Trawick. Coaches are high on both of the young tight ends, but they'll battle inconsistency.

***The young receivers battle inconsistency (and drops) as well, but there's talent there.

***It's going to be hard to keep Ladarrius Madden off the field at safety. He could even get a starting spot back. He just makes plays, and that went noticed by coach Larry Blakeney. Madden stepped in front of a Corey Robinson pass in 11-on-11 and had what would have been an INT return for a touchdown in a real game.

***If Jarred Fleming isn't a starting offensive lineman, he's probably the sixth guy. He's able to play every line spot, except maybe center, and getting in plenty of work at right tackle, where Terrence Jones is currently the starter. In some looks, James Brown was even playing right tackle to go up against Jonathan Massaquoi.

***Got the call today. Will be back for the 4th season of Tuesdays with Barry on SportsRadio 740 AM out of Montgomery beginning tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. with Barry McKnight and John Longshore. It's not really called Tuesdays with Barry, except in my mind. You can listen online HERE every Tuesday beginning tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. CST.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday links

Of note, Troy isn't practicing today, but going through meetings. The Trojans should return Monday at 7 a.m. and my plan is to get there near the end of that.

Today, I wrote on sophomore Eric Thomas, who is poised for a big year. He'll also be wearing No. 3, which was worn by record-setting receiver Jerrel Jernigan over the last 3 years. You can read the story HERE.

From over in Clemson at the Anderson Independent-Mail, THIS STORY on new starting quarterback Tajh Boyd, who wasn't very good in the spring, but has improved.

Also, HERE is a story on Clemson's highly-rated freshman linebackers.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Saturday links

No, I'm not already out of football ideas. But I heard that the social media presentation given by athletics media relations director Ricky Hazel was such a hit, that I had to write about it.

I didn't see the presentation when the Troy football team saw it, but I saw the material. It was good stuff by Ricky. I guess it remains to be seen if the message got across.

HERE is the story I wrote.

Troy practices at 7 a.m. today and every day until Aug. 17, except for next Saturday's 10:30 a.m. scrimmage and a couple of night practices on Aug. 9 and 11 as part of 2-a-days.

From over in Clemson, the Tigers found a quick pace in its opening practice.

Clemson wants to move fast on offense, and has a bunch of 4 and 5-star freshmen that will play this year.

HERE is an update on Clemson running back Andre Ellington and his return from foot surgery.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday links/video

By now, Troy is getting off the field after its second practice. Hopefully this morning wasn't as hot.

HERE is what I wrote on Troy safety Barry Valcin, who returned to the practice field after missing a year due to an injury.

Athlon Sports named its top 25 Sun Belt players. Four Trojans are on the list, which you can read HERE.

The Miami Herald has a good story about the Sun Belt's high-scoring offenses. You can read it HERE.

And this video of Corey Robinson was filmed yesterday. I meant to get it up last night, but my internet at my house was down.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Some practice notes/thoughts

**I won't be at every practice this fall. I probably won't be able to get back until Monday or Tuesday. But I'll share some observations or thoughts on the ones I do go to.

**Coach Larry Blakeney was high on some young receivers, notably B.J. Chitty and Bryan Holmes. Chitty redshirted last year and looks ready for game action. Holmes is the closest thing to Chip Reeves on this year's team. He's really, really fast. So is true freshman Chandler Worthy. I saw both of them beat veterans on deep balls. How much they play depends on how quick they pick up the other nuances.

**Brett Moncrief is still with a walking boot. I think the offense can go to another level with him back. He's a legit 6-foot-4 and thick at 218 pounds. He looks the part, too. Only thing I'd wonder about is conditioning, but he's going to be a presence.

**Kyle Wilborn and Jacob Creech didn't practice today, but they will once the pads come on. Terrence Jones had to be taken off to get fluids. That's three projected OL starters. So, when the 1s offense lined up, it was, from left to right - James Brown, Jimmie Arnold, Zach Swindall, Zach Johnson and Jarred Fleming.

**James Brown is 308 pounds now. He's looking good, even though he played well at 350 pounds in 2009 and 330 pounds last year. He never had to come out for conditioning-related issues, but I've got to think his play later in games will improve (not saying it was bad before) with him being in better shape.

**Barry Valcin was back practicing and running with the 1s on defense. He, Brynden Trawick, Jimmie Anderson and Chris Pickett were in the secondary.

**The catch of the day came from Hollis Moore, who hauled in a deep pass from Luke Barnes on the left side of the end zone. Keenan Harp was all over him, but Moore used his size to jump up, haul it in with one hand, land hard and still hang on to it.

VIDEO: Larry Blakeney

Working on some notes and a story for tomorrow on safety Barry Valcin. Here is Troy coach Larry Blakeney after the first practice.

So, practice begins today

After a little bit of sleep, I'll be headed up to Troy for the first practice. The Trojans practice at 8:30 a.m. pretty much every day until Aug. 17, and then it turns to the regular game week practices (afternoons except Mondays, which are 6 p.m.)

HERE is what I wrote in today's paper. Some things are explained that I mentioned earlier in the blog.

I'll be at a select few practices but hope to have stories, blog entries, video, twitter, etc., nearly every day. Still several rotation spots at many positions up for grabs. Less than a month until the first game.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Trojans in the pros

We take a break from news to put some photos. Searched the AP Exchange at work for some former Trojans who are now donning professional jerseys




***Levi Brown fires a pass in Bills' camp



***Cameron Sheffield is on the far left at Chiefs camp.



***DuJuan Harris at Jaguars camp.



***Jerrel Jernigan catches a pass at Giants camp



***Leodis McKelvin at Bills camp

Fall camp: Defense/special teams primer

Some things to watch on defense and special teams as practice begins Thursday at 8:30 a.m.

DEFENSIVE LINE - At end, senior John Robles was a last-minute signee and a role player as a skinny defensive end. Now, he's supposedly bulked up and built. He's always been a smart player, according to coaches, so I'm interested to see how he does as a full-time starter. Inside, a trio of third-year players (all redshirt sophomores) have a chance to make a name for themselves - John Clark, Shermane TeArt and Aaron Williams.

LINEBACKER - I'm expecting good seasons from Brannon Bryan and Xavier Lamb. If junior Kanorris Davis holds on to that starting spot, as expected, and stays healthy all season (been a challenge), then the numbers he could put up and the number of big plays he can make is unlimited. Davis knows one speed and he's in line for a big breakout year if he stays healthy. Watch out for sophomore Johnny Thompson behind him, as he has been impressive as well.

DEFENSIVE BACK - Who is going to play the majority of the snaps? Most of last year's group return, and they're joined by several new additions, especially from the JUCO ranks. Transfer Brynden Trawick was the best safety in spring ball, and Barry Valcin is set to reclaim his starting spot after missing last year, but several guys, such as Cam Hudson and returning starter LaDarrius Madden will have something to say about that. At corner, it looks a little bit easier to predict with senior Jimmie Anderson and sophomore Chris Pickett as the likely starters, but they didn't sign JUCO transfer David Whitmore to sit on the bench. There's at least 3 safeties and 3 corners I didn't even mention who have a chance.

SPECIAL TEAMS - Punter, snapper and kicker is solid. Looks like quarterback Corey Robinson will be the holder. Who steps up in the return game? Your best bets going in are Corey Johnson and Justin Albert.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tuesday notes

Spoke with Troy head coach Larry Blakeney on a few issues. Today is reporting day, and the first practice is Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m.

**Just a couple of injury notes. Wide receiver Brett Moncrief won't be ready Thursday and neither will right tackle DeMarkus Underwood. Moncrief is a key guy and a projected starter, but he's recovering from foot surgery. Underwood recently had arthroscopic surgery on his knee. He goes into camp behind Terrence Jones and Cody Woodiel at right tackle. He was listed at 355 pounds on the roster, and redshirted last year.

**Blakeney said there are two grayshirts in this year's class - cornerback Chris Davis and offensive lineman Bartavis Whigham. I believe that's it, but if there are additions, I'll find out Thursday.

**Three signees didn't qualify in defensive end Dre'Shon McGaster, offensive lineman Robert Freeman and defensive tackle Anthony Payne. There were some more guys coming in from junior college that I'd have to check on when practice starts Thursday.

**They are applying to get defensive end Alan-Michael Thomas eligible after transferring from Ole Miss. He does have a case, Blakeney said, but he didn't tell me what it was because he didn't want to tell me something that was wrong.

Fall camp: Offense primer

Just some things to watch on offense as Troy gets ready to begin fall practice on Thursday. You know who the stars are, but what about some position battles?

QUARTERBACK - Sophomore Corey Robinson is set to shatter and hold on to Trojan career passing records possibly forever if he's able to stay on his pace and stay healthy. Senior Jamie Hampton is the backup. What about third-stringer Luke Barnes? Does he play this year or redshirt? We'll see if he's ready.

RUNNING BACK - Shawn Southward is the top guy, and Chris Anderson and D.J. Taylor did some good things last year. How soon will JUCO transfer Montrell Conner get into the mix? Conner was a highly-rated signee, and he's got the combination of size and speed that no one else in the backfield has.

WIDE RECEIVER - Looking at the depth chart, it seems like there are three receivers that coaches feel good about and I feel good saying they'll have big years - sophomore Eric Thomas at the X, junior college transfer Corey Johnson at H and senior Brett Moncrief at Z. But, some other guys are going to have to step up. Redshirt freshman B.J. Chitty and sophomores Justin Albert, Sam Haskins and Felton Payton look to be next in line.

At the Y-position, will that spot be taken by a tight end more so than in years past? Two 6-foot-6 targets in Jim Teknipp and Gavin Ellis give the Trojans something they haven't had at this position since the change to the spread offense way back in 2006.

OFFENSIVE LINE - James Brown at left tackle and Kyle Wilborn at left guard are two of the better linemen in the Sun Belt, and Brown is an NFL prospect for the 2012 Draft. There are plenty of bodies beyond that, but not much set in stone just yet. Senior Zach Swindall is poised to start at center, and he'll still be pushed by junior Andrew Phillips. Going into camp, Jacob Creech and Terrence Jones are the top guys on the right side. Freshman Zach Johnson and JUCO transfer Cody Woodiel made a big impression in spring, as both of them moved into second-team spots past guys who have been here longer.

This unit has always lived up to its billing and then some with coach John Schlarman running the show. I'm interested to see how the rotation comes out for the first game.

WEDNESDAY: Defense and special teams

Monday, August 1, 2011

Trojan NFL update

Meant to add this in the blog post below, but here's an update on the NFL players from Troy's latest senior class.

***As you know, Jerrel Jernigan was drafted in the third round by the New York Giants. He agreed to terms on a four-year deal.

The hope is that he can contribute early to the passing and special teams game.

Two others signed undrafted free agent deals. Running back DuJuan Harris signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and defensive end Mario Addison signed with the Chicago Bears.

Back to the grind, and football will soon be here

So my second furlough week is over, and there's a lot more to talk about this week. First off, some links.

***Thankfully, we were on the scene of some news. Jon Johnson wrote about defensive tackle Sidell Corley having to call it quits due to a health issue. He's battled health issues pretty much since he's been at Troy. He's a good guy from a good family and I wish him well.

Also in that article, you see redshirt freshman defensive tackle J.R. Robertson is academically ineligible and is no longer with the team.

***One name who is not listed in the article is Jay Stansberry, who would have been a sophomore this year. The offensive lineman has battled health issues in his neck/shoulder and is not on the roster. He was forced to give up the sport as well. He would have been a starter last year, but I don't think he ended up even playing because of the health issues.

***Troy also picked up a transfer from Ole Miss in defensive end Alan-Michael Thomas. Thomas redshirted last year at Ole Miss before leaving the school, and I don't believe he would be eligible this year for the transfer rule. I'll have to check with coach Larry Blakeney on that this week.

Through rivals.com, Thomas was a 3-star recruit out of high school. He had to go to Hargrave Military school for a year before Ole Miss, and he was a four-star recruit. You'll find him on recruiting services listed as Mike Thomas. He's from Mobile and played at St. Paul's.

***Earlier in the week, I had sent in a Question and Answer with Troy punter Will Goggans. You can read it HERE.

***Troy begins practice Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. The team reports Tuesday, has meetings all day Tuesday and Wednesday before getting to the good stuff Thursday. I like the move to morning practices because most of the weather problems we seem to have in southeast Alabama come around late afternoon. I remember going to Troy's first practice last year only to have it canceled by some storms.

***You can read the Troy release HERE, and it has a link to Troy's almanac (media guide) and record book. That has the whole roster.

***Some guys are changing numbers this fall. Some that stuck out to me are safety Barry Valcin (was 15, now 2), wideout Eric Thomas (was 81, now 3), cornerback Chris Pickett (was 27, now 7), safety Cam Hudson (was 28, now 8), safety Ladarrius Madden (can't remember what he was, but he's now 9), cornerback Dionte Ponder (now 5), wide receiver Sam Haskins (now 12), defensive end John Robles (was 2, now 21)

***The depth chart had a few changes. Eric Thomas is now listed as the starter at X, with Sam Haskins as the starter at Y. At corner, the big surprise is that junior Bryan Willis, who started for a year and a half, is now a third-teamer behind a guy that's never played a snap for Troy in sophomore D.J. Jones. I think there's a ton of depth in the secondary, even if it's with some guys who haven't suited up yet, but coaches think will be very good players.

***A depth chart is there, but a lot will happen over the course of camp. I think the biggest moves will be at WR, OL and DB. It's going to be fun to watch. The first scrimmage, as noted in the Troy release, is Saturday August 13.

***Jon also wrote THIS story on former Trojan softball player Courtney Davis, who lost a leg after being in a tragic boating accident a couple of weeks ago.